Loading Blue Ram BASIC "Tapes" using MAME Emulation A Bally Arcade / Astrocade Video Tutorial Video created May 14, 2019 by Adam Trionfo (BallyAlley) Video published May 15, 2019
This tutorial explains how to load and save Blue Ram BASIC programs in the Astrocade emulator in MAME. Specifically Blue Ram BASIC programs are loaded on the emulated Bally Arcade/Astrocade console, a game system released in January of 1978. Although the tutorial focuses on how to use MAME on a Windows system, the information in this video can probably be transferred for use by Linux and Macintosh users too.
The steps required to get the MAME emulator up and running with the system ROMs are explained in a previous tutorial called "Setting up Astrocade Emulation Using MAME:"
The main idea of this video is to get a user loading programs from "tape" (actually WAV files archived on BallyAlley.com) as quickly as possible. Anyone who has only a limited knowledge and prior-use of emulation, or has some knowledge of how to use emulation, but has never used a Bally Arcade/Astrocade console before today will benefit from this short video. After the instructions in the tutorial have been followed, any user of a Windows system that has at least version 0.209 of the MAME emulator setup can load and save software to and from "tape."
Some short examples from the following BASIC programs are provided here. Notice that in the case of AstroZap and Outpost 19, these are the improved Blue Ram BASIC versions of the original "AstroBASIC" games.
1) AstroZap, (Game, Blue Ram BASIC) - By George Moses. 198x. - "Astro Zap" is similar to the commercial arcade game "Space Zap" by Midway, or the Bally Arcade's own "Space Fortress" cartridge. The Blue Ram BASIC source is unknown, but the AstroBASIC version was first printed in: ARCADIAN 4, no. 9 (Jul. 06, 1982): 88.
2) H-9 Art Program (Video Art, Blue Ram BASIC) - By Stanley Kendall. 1984. Found in Ken Lill's tape collection.
3) Outpost 19 (Game, Blue Ram BASIC) - By WaveMakers. 1984.
4) Viper Test Pattern (Video Art, Blue Ram BASIC, ViperSoft BASIC) - By Alternative Engineering. This was released on a tape with Viper 1 RAM Expansion, BASIC Express, The 3, no. 3 (July/August 1981): 26-27., ARCADIAN 4, no. 2 (Dec. 07, 1981): 19. - Description from The BASIC Express newsletter, "This program puts up a gorgeous ever-changing pattern on the screen. You would swear that 32 different colors are on screen at the same time."
1) RBRTEST.WAV - A short 2-line BASIC Program that's supposed to say "BALLYALLEY.COM" but I noticed just before uploading this video that I misspelled ALLEY as ALLY. No program runs without an error, right?
In a future installment, I'll show how to set-up keyboard mapping so that the Bally BASIC cartridge can be easily used during emulation. I'll also show how to setup MAME so that ICBM Attack, a game that uses a rare analog joystick called the Spectre controller, can be played using a mouse or trackball.
If this video helps you get started in the Astrocade world, then please share it with others who might enjoy taking a peek into the library of games for this underdog console that was only ever released in America and Canada.
Note: Occasionally during this video, the screen "flashes." This doesn't happen when using the software. This is a side effect of the Open Broadcaster Software that I used to make this recording. Rest assured, when you run MAME and follow these steps your screen will have none of the flashing.
The following information about the Blue Ram RAM upgrade is from the "Bally/Astrocade Game Cartridge and Hardware FAQ," 1.82 (July 14, 2016) by Paul Thacker, Adam Trionfo and Mike White.
Blue Ram Perkins Eng. The Blue Ram, designed by Perkins Engineering, was the hardware peripheral that became the biggest news in the Astrocade's history in absence of the Add-on (Z-GRASS) unit. The Blue Ram plugs into the 50-pin connector on the back of the Astrocade and expands the programming capabilities of the Astrocade. Available either fully assembled or as a kit, it was originally released in June, 1980 as a 4K unit. Over the next couple of years the memory capacity increased, so several different versions exist (4K, 8K, 16K and a small handful of 32K versions). Several confirmed accessories for this unit were released, including: keyboard, printer interface, modem interface, EPROM burner and BSR controller. The Blue Ram could be switched into a mode that simulated a cartridge; several of the third-party game cartridges were programmed using this unit and either the Machine Language Manager cartridge or the Blue Ram Utility.